Baba Buntu, of Shabaka: Men of Afrika, wrote this on the group’s facebook page. It’s a how-to, let’s-break-it-down, useful piece of advice on responding to white racist micro-aggression, insults, exclusions, put-downs and the covert everyday racism many black people will know of in the workplace. I have reposted it below, or you can go to the source here http://www.facebook.com/groups/197738272066/permalink/10151372276232067/ and make your comments directly to him.
‘Race and racism in the workplace: How should you respond when whites make race-jokes, exclude you, talk down to you or express “subtle racism” – or, even, when other black staff treat your white colleagues better than you? Here are some points to consider:
1. First of all (note that I put “subtle racism” in inverted commas), there is no better or worse racism. Whether it is expressed as an “innocent” joke or a brutal attack it comes from the same value of affirming Black Inferiority and White Supremacy. Do not accept when whites tell you that “they didn’t mean anything bad”.
2. Do not buy into the “you see, I chose to be the better person, so I don’t respond” crap. If a person kicks you to the ground and call you dog, and you remain lying down, you BECOME a dog. Don’t!
3. (This is important;) Working in an environment with whites – you can NOT afford to be surprised if/when/that race becomes an issue. It will. And you must be prepared. ALWAYS carry a virtual tool-box of responses. Never again must you leave work and keep spinning in your mind: “why didn’t I say anything” through sleepless nights.
4. The saying “you teach people how to treat you” is essential. But to know your boundaries of how you accept to “be treated” means you need to know yourself. Who are you? Have you accepted that you are “just another black”? That you belong to a “powerless people” and must accept anything? Or do you step into your workplace as a representative of ancient majestic rulers and founders of world civilizations? There IS a difference. Messing with you equals provoking 10,000 years of excellence. And, trust me, your surrounding will notice.
5. Do NOT allow yourself to be emotional in the situation. If you need to kick, scream, cry and shout – do it in the toilet or run outside for 5 minutes. When you can, plan and reflect deeply on your response, weigh each word and make sure you use power language (substitute“please listen” with “let me explain something to you”, “sorry to sound upset” with “this is completely unacceptable” and “i dont mean to be judgemental” with “I am surprised to see such unintelligent behaviour”). Talk slow. Sit/stand in a way that you have full control of your body language. Use direct eye contact. Use their name repeatedly and use rhetoric language (“Steve Hofmeyer, you really think you are getting away with this?”, “Is any of this sinking into your mind, Steve?”).
6. Be confident. Do not threaten. Do not use emotional language. Do not say the words “hurt”, “sad” or “upset”. Feeling-words might be accurate, but will be used against you in the court of supreme whiteness. When interrupted, say “Wait, I am not finished, I will tell you when it is your turn”. Know when to stop the conversation and plan your closing statement. The last word, of course, MUST be yours.
7. Situations are different and you need different modes of intervention for different purposes. Be very aware – before you go into the talk – what your intention is. Do you want to understand what happened (if so, you “interrogate”, ask a lot and listen a lot, then sum up and comment). Do you want to just make the person understand that this is unacceptable (if so, you talk a lot and listen less: “honestly, I am not interested in your opinion, I am teaching you a valuable lesson, so be thankful that I even bother”). Are you going mad and need to put your foot down (if so, you share your three points, close up and leave – quick and effective).
8. Are you not the confrontational type? Well, consider this for a moment: You are a representative of great Afrikan legacies, put on this planet in the image of God with a particular purpose. It is your task to CARRY these legacies and CARRY OUT your purpose. Teaching someone that they are wrong is not about constantly fighting, it is about representing all you are with confidence and self-worth. So you better woman up and man up real quick!
9. What if you stand to lose your job? Well, this is a decision only you can make and, obviously, you want to be aware of the consequences your action can have – and prepare as best possible. It is the situation for most Afrikan people in employment that you are “just another number” and can easily be replaced if you are a “trouble maker”. You need to weigh your options. But the legacy of “sticking it out”, tolerating and biting your lip MUST stop. Black health suffers tremendously from this legacy. This is where cooperative action and collective will must come in.
10. What if your abuser is another Black Skin in White Mask? You know, the Black, enslaved accomplices of white power who have an issue with your Black confidence. You obviously want to attempt an “out of court settlement” first (meaning, not blow it up in the face of Europeans present), but, if you have bring the streets into the office, that’s what you do. But, of course, intelligently so. Claims such as “you’re not really black”, “you’re an Uncle Tom” and “coconut nigger” might be correct labels, but will get you nowhere in solving the problem. So narrow it down to the specifics, be clear and non-compromising.
I think by now you realize the necessity of these messages as we all have been brainwashed into fearful self-neglect and intimidation once we step into the “plantation”. Assert yourself Black Woman and Black Man. Reclaim your dignity so that our children can know theirs.
(The above points are for “everyday situations”, and not for extreme cases of open hatred, direct discrimination and racial abuse. In these cases you obviously need stronger strategies and not just talk…)’